His Complete Filmography

Donald Lambert


One of the greatest stride pianists is featured

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Donald Lambert was one of the finest stride pianists in history yet he has been largely forgotten and he barely recorded.

Lambert was born Feb. 12, 1904 in Princeton, New Jersey, was taught piano by his mother and, although he never learned to read music, he greatly impressed his fellow pianists in the 1920s when he appeared at Harlem nightclubs, rent parties, and cutting contests.

Because he preferred to play locally in New Jersey rather than be based in New York or tour, Lambert became a little-known underground legend.

He only recorded four songs during a single session in 1941 (all were stride versions of classical themes) although several albums of live private recordings from 1959-62 were released on albums by Pumpkin, Storyville, Solo Art and Euphonic Sounds; in recent times eight songs from 1949 that were cut but never released by the Circle label were made available on You Tube.

Donald Lambert (known as “The Lamb”) passed away on May 8, 1962 at the age of 58.

Fortunately Lambert’s few film appearances have now been compiled.

He is seen and definitely heard in the film Ten Minutes To Live (1932) on one song (“Why Can’t You Love That Way”) accompanying singer Mabel Garren.

Later in 1932 in Veiled Aristocrats Lambert is seen standing while Willo Lee Guilford sings “River Stay ‘Way From My Door” with another pianist, and then performs two songs with a male singer-tap dancer and vocalist Mabel Garren) including “Dragging My Heart Around,” and he even says a few words.

The only other film of Donald Lambert is taken from his triumphant performance at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival.

While the video quality is not good, Lambert’s brilliant playing comes through very clear, performing “Anitra’s Dance” (which he had recorded in 1941), “Liza,” and two versions of “Charleston”; on the latter he shares the piano with Eubie Blake while backed by the Danny Barker Trio.

It is quite fortunate and rather remarkable that all of this footage is now available.

-Scott Yanow


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